March 4, 2010

Thursday Question: Changes to Recruiting

The active recruitment of high school football players begins years before they sign that letter of intent. But this week, posted an article interviewing several of the most important college coaches, including Mack Brown and Tom Bradley. They were asked about the recruitment of high school juniors, and what we got was a mixed bag. It seemed that Bradley was the only one in favor of tightening up the system, even though it was Penn State that practically invented the junior-grade recruitment practice.

So, naturally, we here at thought it was the perfect Thursday Question... What changes should be made to college football recruiting practices or rules?


Most sane football fans agree that recruiting has gotten out of hand with websites dedicated to recruiting and creepy guys like Tom Lemming making a living off of 17 year-old kids but it really started with the frequency with which coaches contact kids. Some coaches *cough Tom Bradley cough* contact recruits on a near daily basis to try and convince them how much they need them at their program. Hey, we created the monster don’t complain when it starts crushing the villagers. It’s time to put a limit on the number of times a school can contact a kid. By “school” I mean any person associated with the football program and by “contact” I mean any form of communication: verbal, snail mail, phone calls, etc. Just make the limit X - I really don’t care what the number is just decide what a decent amount of contact is and limit every school to that ceiling. Once you’ve reached that limit, that’s it no more. It would even the playing field a bit and really put emphasis on the official visits. Coaches would have to really put together a good sales pitch and not just flood the kid with quantity over quality. It would also give some of the top recruits a chance to get their life back because most coaches would run out of contact time long before LOI day.


It would be so easy to attack the media coverage of college recruiting. But what are you going to do, tell the media to give up millions in revenue generated by covering these pip-squeaks? For me, it's entirely up to the NCAA to control what its sports involve, especially when it comes to recruiting kids before their senior year of high school. Remember folks, it wasn't even until 2007 that the NCAA figured out what a text message was, and that it could be used very effectively to contact a prospective student-athlete. Coaches will always, always figure out new ways to skirt the laws of recruiting, but that's exactly why the law has to stay one step ahead of the bandits. That 2007 ban on text messaging recruits was as embarrassing as it was useful. The NCAA's control over recruiting only extends to those actually within the NCAA--athletes, coaches, etc. The coaches and administrators must be given strict boundaries for the recruiting practices that go on within their programs. Even with such boundaries, coaching staffs will do everything to push the envelop and test those boundaries. Specifically, by not placing tougher restrictions on the type and frequency of contacts with recruits--text messages, phone calls, official and unofficial visits--the NCAA will come to define hypocrisy. Flagging players for celebrating a game-winner? Fining coaches for speaking out against the refs? Still claiming that these are student-athletes? All to preserve the purity and integrity that is college football... my ass. Ignoring the five-star gorilla in the room--recruiting--only paints the NCAA as a weak-armed puppet, which will play to the ignorant crowds once in a while, but withers in the shadows of the special interests and money plaguing modern college football.


I don't follow recruiting a lot, but I would allow for an early signing period prior to the start of fall practices with an out clause in the case of a head coach's termination or say a ruling of NCAA punishment upon their school of choice. I would also like to see strict enforcement of signing limits and greyshirting abuse. Other problems I have with recruiting is outside the realm of the NCAA's jurisdiction: i.e. recruiting sites, ridiculous and douchebaggy selection announcements, etc.


I'm all for having a second signing period to go along with LOI Day in February. This signing period would occur sometime in November and would give recruits who verbal a chance to get it over with and sign the dotted line, with no chance of opposing coaches trying to plant seeds of doubt in their heads during January in an effort to poach them from their current verbals. College basketball has a system similar to this, and I feel recruiting there is far more sleazier than in football. Over the last decade, thanks to the Internet, football recruiting has become an industry in and of itself that glamorizes these high school kids to the point where we might as well start re-naming LOI Day "NAMBLA Day."

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading up on all the 4 and 5-star recruits who have PSU on their radar, but I still find it a bit creepy how much the mainstream media hypes these things up. I'm not saying it's a bad thing that these high school athletes are able to showcase their talents on a national level in all-star games but I just don't like the fact that their critical decisions in choosing where they'll spend the next 3-4 years of their lives at are being trivialized in the form of selecting from one of four hats on a table.

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